TOMMY VITALY – HANGING ROCK

Released 3rd May 2012 on Ice Warrior Records

Second strike from Italian guitarist Tommy Vitaly following up 2010’s rather average Just MeHanging Rock continues the neo-classical power metal tinted theme and sees Tommy team up with a stellar cast including Mats Leven (ex Malmsteen / At Vance), Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One) and Zak Stevens (Savatage) not to mention guest guitar solos from Norifumi Shima (Concerto Moon) and David Shankle (DSG) along with a two keyboard solos from Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell), quite a guest list for sure.  That said you all the guests in the world don’t make an album if the material isn’t up to scratch.

Hanging Rock is for all intents and purposes a better album than its predecessor with a more cohesive direction, yet is still let down massively by a weak production which will really hamper your enjoyment.  You get the impression a rough demo was created and then sent to the pressing plant, it kind of sounds like a budget version of Iron Maiden’s most recent awful Kevin Shirley productions i.e. lacking in power and any bite and polish.  Which is a shame as there is some good tracks here, notably in Run With The Devil, Hands Of Time, Idol and the sweet instrumental Misanthropy.

Overall it is an improvement over its predecessor, yet  sadly still lacking the edge to get it anywhere out of average.  Next time hopefully the production issues will be sorted and we will see a proper representation of Mr Vitaly’s work.

Rating – 68%

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AXEL RUDI PELL – CIRCLE OF THE OATH

Released 26 March on SPV/Steamhammer

Another year, another album from Axel Rudi Pell or so it feels like the endless cycle continues.

Another dark and mystical album cover? check.

Another selection of tunes heavily influenced by early Rainbow / Purple and Tony Martin era Sabbath? Check.

Axel I guess has OCD when it comes to making albums; most are interchangeable with each other.  There is an ARP sound no doubt and if you like it and want more of the same ‘Circle Of The Oath’ gives you just that.  If with over 2 decades of solo releases since leaving Steeler (German branch) you are hoping for something a little different from the Pellmeister then you are shit out of luck.

Granted, vocalist Johnny Gioeli still delivers the goods, Mike Terrana on drums is a monster whilst bassist Volker Krawzcak holds down the bottom end with typical German efficiency, over this keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg is allowed to give his best Jon Lord/Tony Carey/Jens Johansson impression.  The ARP backing band has always been a strong unit with Pell, ironically by far the weakest piece of it with his ragged sloppy speed picked licks and vibrato that’s on a par with Kirk Hammett (the one piece of Blackmore’s style he’s seemingly failed to grasp).  But then hey, the average punter doesn’t listen for things like hitting the pitch and in tune vibrato in guitar work and just hear its fast so it must be good…right?!  That said no-one can deny Pell has a knack of writing punchy and epic metal numbers with solid riffs, and it has it down with “Circle Of The Oath” delivering perhaps a little better than on the last album I heard 2006’s “Mystica”.

Whilst the material has been essentially giving diminishing returns ever since his (IMO) piece-de-résistance  – 1994’s Between The Walls –  Pell has never delivered a true dud (the ballad albums do come close though), and to his credit, Pell hasn’t suffered self produced faux-pas’ like Malmsteen so marks should be given for avoiding that pitfall as it’s a good sounding record.

But overall if you like Axel Rudi Pell and want more of the same ‘Circle Of The Oath’ will please.  If you have some previous albums and want to hear some growth from an artist don’t bother.

This all adds to 2 ratings.

Yes, I have OCD and need more ARP albums!! – 85%
I already own 3 Axel Rudi Pell albums that all sound the same, can I have something different? – 30%